Community notebook: Eco display aims to make visitors see green

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March 12, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch & Dylan Thomas
Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch & Dylan Thomas
An interactive exhibit unveiled Feb. 15 at the Minneapolis Convention Center aims to focus visitors’ attention on the city’s environmental initiatives.

The two-sided, floor-to-ceiling display includes a large map of Downtown and touch screens that inform visitors about projects like the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing program and the NRG Energy Center Minneapolis, which provides energy-efficient heating and cooling to more than 100 Downtown buildings.

In addition to boosting the city’s reputation, investing in environmentally beneficial projects make fiscal sense, said Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“Good stewardship of the environment is also good stewardship of city dollars,” Rybak said.

The exhibit’s public debut also served as an opportunity for Convention Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson to tout his conservation goals for that facility.

Johnson said the Convention Center would significantly reduce water and energy use and increase recycling by 2015. The facility already has cut energy use by about 24 percent since 2008, producing about $1 million in savings, he said.

The Convention Center conservation goals include reducing energy use by a further 10 percent, reducing water consumption by 50 percent and recycling 75 percent of all waste by 2015.

Achieving that last goal will require a significant shift at the Convention Center, which currently puts more waste in the garbage can than the recycling bin. To reach its goal for 2015, the facility will have to recycle about 1.4 million pounds of the 1.8 million pounds of waste it produces annually, Johnson said.

He said the facility would reach its energy reduction goal in part through upgrading light fixtures to more energy efficient models and making a habit of turning lights off when no one is around. Convention Center staff was also exploring options for capturing and reusing the rainwater that falls on the facility’s expansive roof, he added.

Mark Stenglein taking the helm at Downtown Council

Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein will become the next president and CEO of the Downtown Council.

Stenglein will follow Sam Grabarski, who has held the role since 1996. Steinglein will start his new job June 1. Grabarski will stay on as President Emeritus for a transitional period.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed my time at the Minneapolis Downtown Council and I’m committed to a seamless period of transition between Mark and myself. He will make an excellent President and CEO during the exciting times ahead for downtown,” said Grabarski in a statement.

Stenglein’s main goal as head of the Downtown Council will be to work toward implementation of the organization’s recently unveiled 2025 plan, which calls for a doubling of the downtown population, improvements to Nicollet Mall, widening the city’s transportation options and several other goals. In his role as Hennepin County Commissioner, Stenglein has worked on many of the issues outlined by the 2025 Plan.

“Downtown Minneapolis is a thriving urban destination, and I am anxious to contribute to the future growth of the city,” said Stenglein in a statement. “This is the perfect time for downtown business and elected leaders to bring their energy to the table to help preserve and grow what has been accomplished in Minneapolis.”

State Sen. Linda Higgins, who represents downtown and North Minneapolis, has announced her intentions to run for the Hennepin County Commissioner seat vacated by Stenglein.  

New veteran’s memorial planned for NE riverfront

SHERIDAN — Plans for a veteran’s memorial are coming into focus at the new Sheridan Memorial Park, located on the riverbank north of Broadway.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is looking for an artist to create a central sculpture. The sculpture will be surrounded by rings of closely-planted trees and markers representing past wars.

The Sheridan Neighborhood Organization and local veterans have worked for several years to raise money for the project, and the memorial now has a $400,000 budget.

Construction of the site is slated for next fall, with a dedication planned for Memorial Day in 2013.

Metro Transit unveils new branding for Light Rail and BRT

Metro Transit operator The Metropolitan Council has revealed the new branding for the Light Rail transit (LRT) and bus-rapid transit (BRT) system. Together, the system will be known as METRO, with individual lines identified by color names.

The existing Hiawatha LRT line has been dubbed the Blue Line. The upcoming Central Corridor and Southwest Corridor LRT lines have been collectively dubbed the Green Line. I-35W’s BRT line has been named the Orange Line, and a the Cedar Avenue BRT line will be known as the Red Line when it is completed in November.

The new system name and consistent branding is designed to create consistent expectations for users of both LRT and BRT.

“The METRO system name identifies the developing LRT/BRT services as unique,” said Arlene McCarthy, director of Metropolitan Transportation Services for the Council in a statement. “METRO riders can expect fast, frequent and convenient service, whether they ride the Blue Line to Target Field, the Red Line to Mall of America or the Green Line to the State Capitol.”

The Hiawatha LRT will be refreshed to reflect its new identity as the METRO Blue Line later this year. New LRT and BRT stations will receive visible METRO branding as they are completed.

Women’s Club of Minneapolis open to the public in March

LORING PARK — If you’ve ever been curious about the Women’s Club of Minneapolis, March is your chance to get your questions answered. Through March 31, the Women’s Club will open its Clubhouse at 410 Oak Grove St. to the public.

The Clubhouse will open for breakfast, lunch and dinner service Tuesday through Sunday for the month, with brunch service on Sundays. Interested diners can make reservations by calling 813-5300.

On Saturday March 24, the Women’s Club will host a reading and concert by Mike Doughty, former frontman of the band Soul Coughing. Doughty will read from his new book “The Book of Drugs,” which chronicles his years with the band. Tickets are $24 and can be ordered online at

Minneapolis Federal Reserve to host viewings of Bernanke Lectures

In late March, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will teach a series of four lectures at George Washington University on the Federal Reserve and its role in the economy. These lectures will be broadcast to locations around the country, including the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. The Minneapolis Fed will open its doors to the public for the lectures, each of which will be followed by conversation sessions with Minneapolis Fed economists and staff.

“Although the Minneapolis Fed has worked with teachers for years to provide educational material, and we have lots of information available online, this marks the first time that we’ve offered such a program for the general public,” said Minneapolis Fed Director of Public Affairs David Fettig in a statement. “We make many presentations about the Federal Reserve to interested groups every year, but we thought this would be a good time to invite people to the bank to learn about the Federal Reserve.”

The classes will be held at the Minneapolis Fed, 90 Hennepin Ave, on March 20, 22, 27 and 29. All classes begin run from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The sessions are free, but registration is required through

Minnesota Bike Summit is March 5

The second-annual Minnesota Bike Summit is expected to draw bicycling advocates from across the state to St. Paul to talk bike policy March 5.

Organized by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the event is an opportunity for bicyclists to meet with each other and their state legislators to discuss their priorities, including the alliance’s 2012 legislative agenda.

Front and center on that agenda is passing a “vulnerable road user law” that increases the penalties for drivers who cause harm or death to other road users while committing a careless or reckless driving offense. Right now, there is no middle ground between careless driving, a misdemeanor, and criminal vehicular homicide, a felony.

The alliance is also pushing for creating of a state-funded version of the federal Safe Routes to School program, which provides grants for improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure near schools. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, which administers the federal program in Minnesota, currently receives many more grant requests than it can fund.

The event begins with a 9:30 a.m. check-in at Christ Lutheran Church, 105 University Ave. W., across the street from the capitol. Bicycling advocates will rally in the capitol rotunda at 1:45 p.m. and meet with legislators throughout the day.

Speakers for the event include former Utne Reader editor Jay Walljasper and Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle+McVoy, the Downtown advertising firm that in 2010 was recognized with a Bicycle Friendly Business Award from the League of American Bicyclists.

Pre-registration for the event closed March 1, but same-day registration will be allowed. For more on the event, go to

Audubon neighbors considering new home project

AUDUBON PARK — The Audubon Neighborhood Association might spend $26,000 — its largest project to date — to help build a new home at 2803 Polk St. NE.

The current house on the site must be demolished, and the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation is interested in building a three-bedroom, 1,650-square-foot home in its place.

The sale of the home is expected to generate $180,000 to help pay for construction, and the city of Minneapolis is also contributing money to the project.

Minnesota native brings rock and roll photography to Jeune Lune

NORTH LOOP — Minnesota native Rob Shanahan has photographed some of the most famous names in rock music. He’s snapped pictures of Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Paul McCartney and many more. He even works as Ringo Starr’s personal photographer. Shanahan has collected many of his best portraits in his new book, “Volume 1: Through the Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan.” On March 15 at 6 p.m., Shanahan will sign copies of his book and prints of his photos at The Jeune Lune, 105 1st St. N.

Whittier parent running for School Board

WHITTIER — The latest candidate to announce his intention to run for a School Board seat this fall is Whittier resident and city employee Darrell Washington.

Washington works as the manager of Real Estate Development Services, a unit within the city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development. He has three children, including a fifth grader at Whittier International Elementary School.

Washington said he was running “to bring the perspective of a current parent” to the School Board. He plans to seek the DFL endorsement.

Washington plans to run for the District 4 seat, one of three new district seats coming open for the first time this fall. District 4 includes all of Southwest north of Lake Street, as well as parts of East Harriet, Downtown and the Harrison neighborhood just north of Bryn Mawr.

Washington said he would like the district to be “more consistent in its actions,” noting there was a general feeling among observers that the district lurched from one major initiative to another. He also emphasized the importance of expanding early childhood education.

He said, if elected, he would use the position emphasize the important role parents play in their students’ education.

“I want to tell parents, ‘Read [with] your children,’” he said.

A song for Somalia

With help from the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee, a video of Whittier International Elementary School students singing a traditional Somali song may get a future showing in Banadir Hospital in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Whittier music teacher Kristin Bennett said a Somali-American parent and active school volunteer taught students the short song, which is traditionally sung by Somali students at the beginning of the school day. Whittier students performed it for one of Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s recent Soup with the Supe community events.

A version sung by Whittier first and second grade students was recorded at the school Feb. 23.

Whittier previously held a fundraiser for the American Refugee Committee’s I Am a Star humanitarian relief campaign. After months of famine and near-famine, the latest United Nations report indicated the food crisis continued for nearly one-third of people living in southern Somalia in February.

Banadir Hospital has been one focus of the American Refugee Committee’s relief efforts in that country. The hospital has been treating the sick and hungry flooding in from the countryside, where an ongoing civil war has made it difficult for humanitarian organizations to operate.

Bennett said the American Refugee Committee planned to show the videotaped performance to children being treated at the hospital. A version will also be posted to the I Am a Star campaign’s Facebook page.

For more information, go to